Discover a collection of personal memories of Dundee United’s most successful manager, from the people who know him.
It is almost half a century since James Yuille McLean walked out of Dundee FC’s Dens Park and crossed the road to Tannadice — and started the process of making wee, unfashionable, unsuccessful Dundee United into one of the best teams in Europe.
United were, at the time, a club the size of Albion Rovers, or East Stirlingshire.
Nowadays, they are a major Scottish club. That is down to one man. Jim McLean stands astride the history of football in the city of Dundee like a colossus.
Jim is, quite simply, a legend in the eyes of United fans, and one of the most fascinating figures ever to feature in the long history of football in Scotland.
So do you think you know all about him? Do you think you’ve heard all the stories?
Have you seen the play about him, do you remember him being interviewed on TV, have you swallowed whole the clichés of the reputation that was created for him in the press?
If so, you don’t know Jim McLean at all.
The book is dedicated to, and produced with the cooperation of Jim’s wife Doris and her family.
It tells of the Jim McLean behind the gruff persona, and away from the tales of his incredible will to win. It speaks of a man, a husband, a father, a bowler, a tennis “natural”, a mentor, a joker, a human being.
There are tales here of Jim that shine a new light on him, revealing facets you will never have seen.
The professional side of his life is most important, of course. Jim is often cited as a football genius.
A man who improved every player he ever had at the club, and who devised ways to beat teams that had better players than his, using innovative tactics that were years ahead of their time.
But how, exactly, did he do it? There are accounts of his training methods from the likes of ex-players Allan Preston, Dave Bowman and Paul Sturrock.
They talk of being influenced by him as a player, but also the effect he had on their development as people.
There is an insightful account of Jim’s football philosophy, and where it came from, by his brother Willie, himself a legendary figure in the Scottish game.
There are insightful, thoughtful accounts of how Jim dealt with game, and talked about it to the press, from Tom Duthie, Lorraine Kelly, Archie Macpherson, Jim Spence, Chick Young and Richard Gordon.
Perhaps most importantly, there are recollections of Jim from the fans. All the stories of the punters who wrote to Jim, and who were then hugely surprised to get a phone call inviting them to Tannadice to discuss team matters.
There are stories of how Jim treated mascots, ball boys, and United shop staff that will greatly surprise you.
There is an account of April Fools jokes between Jim and Sir Alex Ferguson from Mrs Ella Lindsay, the long-serving secretary at Tannadice.
Phil Differ, who wrote the play Smile (which captivated all who saw it at Dundee Rep) and the play’s director Sally Reid, and the actor who played Jim, Barrie Hunter, reveal how they got under his skin to properly represent him on a stage.
They had to understand Jim as a human being. All aspects of him, from his professional life to his tastes in chocolate desserts.
They tell their stories in this book, revealing a complex and fascinating figure.
Alan Herriot, Scotland’s foremost figurative sculptor, who carved the statue of Jim (that was paid for by public subscription) tells of capturing the look and presence of Jim.
Again, how a man is depicted in a work of art gives great insights into who and what he is.
This book is a voyage through the layers of a man who is held in reverence throughout a city. In some ways, Jim’s career is a reflection of the city of Dundee.
An awakening of pride and the stirrings of a “can do” attitude on a football pitch and within a city planning strategy.
Jim McLean deserves to be understood beyond the usual clichés, and appreciated for the achievements that one man with an incredible strength of character can have on a football club, and the population of a city.
Jim McLean was a football man first, of course, who made Dundee United a name known all over Europe.
Jim brought a recognition to a wee town on the east coast of Scotland that it still benefits from today.
But while this book investigates how that came to pass, it is also an analysis of a man who became an icon of a city, a private and shy man who became one of the most famous faces in a nation.